A ten-hour curfew wasn’t going to keep a group of more than thirty people from a night-time vigil to honor George Floyd, one week after he died while in custody.
They gathered at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, when the curfew went into effect, and they finally left at 6:00 a.m. Monday, when the curfew expired. In between those time mileposts, they sat inside a 30-foot circle of flowers, arranged on the pavement that makes up the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Ave.
It was a site like many in southeast Minneapolis the morning of May 25. Now, it’s forever known as the spot where Floyd was pinned to the street, an MPD officer’s knee pressing on his neck.
There’s a memorial of signs, photos, drawn pictures, and flowers that line one side of the Cup Foods building on Chicago, makes a hard turn at the traffic light, and continues on down 38th.
The demonstrators rose while the sun was coming up, many of them stretching out the kinks, before joining hands in prayer, and leaving for home after shouting the name that much of the world now knows.
“It’s amazing. We won,” said Montrell Armstrong, who grew up in Chicago and now lives in Minneapolis. “The first protest that did not get shut down. We won.”
Minneapolis police chief Maderia Arradondo met with the group right before the sit-in began, with police making their presence known through the night but arresting no one.
“We set up kind of a wall system around us, about a one-bock radius,” said Brandon Wolf, a recent St. Paul transplant from Florida’s panhandle. “The police played psychological warfare with us by driving by real fast with their lights on but no sirens, going by in groups of five, ten. The one thing that they can’t do is take our peace away from us.”
Not far from the flowered circle was another floral arrangement adjacent to the spot where Floyd was on the ground, marked with a chalk outline and the words “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
Sarah Mitchell of Rosemount said she felt spiritual and peaceful while sitting inside the circle of flowers through the night.
“We shouldn’t be getting arrested,” she said. “You shouldn’t take away our right just because other people are doing bad stuff in the city. We want justice, and I feel like this is justified, the reason why we’re doing this.”
The tribute was organized by Corey Moore, a military veteran who grew up in south Minneapolis and now lives in Buffalo, Minn., who said he spent the night talking to others and learning about their culture while convincing others to keep the protest peaceful. He also released some pent-up emotions.
“I cried a lot,” he said. “I just had to let it out because, I felt like if I would keep that in, you were just going to become, like, an angry person and do things that you’re going to regret. That’s not what I’m all about. I don’t want to do that. I want people to see me cry.”